To Speed Delivery for Coronavirus Shut-ins, Israeli Grocers to Offer Fixed Shopping List

As supermarket chains become overwhelmed by online orders, ‘fixed baskets’ aim to solve packing bottleneck

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An Israeli scans supermarket shelves amid the coronavirus pandemic.
An Israeli scans supermarket shelves amid the coronavirus pandemic.Credit: עופר וקנין

Two of Israel’s biggest supermarket chains are planning to offer a fixed basket of goods beginning next week as they seek to cut delivery times for coronavirus shut-ins ordering online.

Shufersal (formerly known as Super-Sol in English), Israel’s biggest food retailer, and Rami Levy, its leading food discounter, will highlight on their website home pages their fixed baskets. Shufersal’s basket will have 130 products, while Rami Levy’s will have 89. Shoppers will be able to remove items from the list but not to add additional ones.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 72

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The initiative, which is being undertaken in cooperation with the Economy and Industry Ministry, comes as Israel’s supermarkets struggle to keep up with a surge of online orders as government lockdown measures become increasingly strict. As of Monday, people are allowed to leave their homes only for a limited number of activities, including to buy food and other necessities.

Shoppers placing orders can expect to wait two weeks for them to arrive, which is a particularly big problem as the Passover holiday begins next Wednesday.

The supermarkets say the bottleneck in fulfilling online orders is putting together each delivery, something that will be more efficient if shoppers opt for the fixed basket of goods.

“We have been thinking about ways to shorten delivery times for online orders and one of the ideas that came to fruition was the ‘fixed basket.’ Those who order it will get it within 72 hours,” said Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen.

All the supermarket chains have been invited to join the program, but as of Wednesday only Shufersal and Rami Levy had agreed. Cohen said he expected the others to agree, now that the two biggest chains are on board.

Shufersal has not set a price for its 130-product basket. Rami Levy’s 89-item basket will cost 780 shekels ($217) and include dairy products, vegetables, meat and other products.

Despite Cohen’s 72-hour promises, the chains said the maximum delivery time would be a week, which is still better than what shoppers have now.

“The original idea was a single basket for all the chains, but because Passover is just around the corner and there’s no time to finesse the logistics, we’re letting each chain offer its own basket. At the same time, we’re trying to get the chain to give priority to elderly shoppers,” Cohen said.

He added that if the chains offered the same basket, he would not raise any competition policy issues.

In related news, the government has said it will pay 22 million shekels a week for food products used by the elderly and others at high risk to contagion if they leave their homes to go shopping, TheMarker has learned.

The program, devised by the army’s Homefront Command, will have the supermarket chains assemble weekly food packages at a cost of 189 shekels each. They will include canned fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, tuna or meat, long-life milk, honey and a kilo of sugar, among other things.

Some 1,000 soldiers from the rescue units will deliver the packages with help from the Israel Defense Forces technology and logistics branch to people identified by local authorities as qualifying.

The country is being divided into five regions, with a different supermarket chain responsible for each one.

Meanwhile, several supermarket chains, including Victory and Rami Levy, asked the government to allow people on unpaid leave to continue collecting unemployment if they take supermarket jobs.

While most retailers have seen sales drop sharply since the outbreak of the coronavirus, food retailers have seen turnover surge higher, thanks mainly to online shopping. As a result, supermarkets say, they are struggling to find workers to fulfill orders and deliver them because people on unpaid leave have no incentive to find employment if they are entitled to benefits.

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